Take 5 - Klassikempfehlungen vom 27. Januar 2014

Kremsier, das heutige Kroměříž in Mähren, war im alten Habsburg eine bischöfliche Residenz mit blühendem Musikleben. Die hier aufgelegten Tanzkompositionen rekonstruieren ein Karnevalsfest, für das Biber bei seinem dortigen Aufenthalt die Musik geliefert hat.


FANFARE MAGAZINE, April 2014 - This is a very pleasing disc. If you’ve enjoyed any of the succession of releases of late featuring Schmelzer’s balletti and sonatas, you’ll definitely enjoy this.
La FOLIA, Nov. 2013 - With delicious, lively sound, Karneval is a great (17th century) party album.
Toccata Nr.3/2005 Mai-Juni 2005 - Der Primgeiger spielt zur Musik auf, ohne sich aufzuspielen und kann sich in sein Ensemble einpassen, das mit Charme, Spielfreude, drive tänzerisch-beschwingt bei der Sache ist....


Gunar Letzbor: BIBER Trombet- undt Musicalischer Taffeldienst...... on PAN
Classical Reviews - Composers & Works
Tuesday, 29 April 2014

If a PR agent had been consulted for a title of this release, they might well have chosen The Lighter Side of Biber , winceable though it is. The disc’s actual title, Karneval in Kremsier, reveals little. The composer of so much sacred and serious secular music is heard here in the kind of light fare very popular at the Austrian Imperial court and those of its satellite nobility. Biber was one generation later than Johann Schmelzer, who delighted both Emperor Ferdinand III and his successor, Leopold I, with an endless supply of short dance suites and sonatas in the very conservative Italian manner of the early 17th century—a time when Eleonora Gonzaga of Mantua brought many musicians with her to Austria following her marriage into the imperial family. Leopold also shared the tastes of his father, Ferdinand III, for programmatic pieces that depicted with a mix of relish and mockery the folk music of the territories he ruled.

These preferences are fused on this album, with suites whose abrupt shifts of character resemble the early sonatas of Ucellini (a known influence on Biber), save for the marked rural character of the themes, rhythms, and harmonies of many movements. Schmelzer did as much in some of the 150+ ballet suites of his that survive, but Biber differs in the addition of occasional short, canonically contrapuntal movements. We might hazard a guess that he expected his audience to find them (and his expressive, Italian-based arias) humorous in juxtaposition to the more simple folk-influenced fare of Slovakia, Hungary, etc., that informed the other movements in these pieces. Lending credence to this view is a learned joke that occurs at one point, during the ciacona that concludes the Trombet- undt Musicalischer Taffeldienst à 4 . Following a somberly gracious movement marked “sonatina,” Biber launches into a gossamer pizzicato of three-part writing, one in truly quicksilver divisions - only to have it underlaid twice en route by a drunken nightwatchman singing (very coarsely, as Biber’s audience would expect from rural rubes) a ground in augmentation. (The identical piece appears again in one of the two balletti recorded here, presumably in error.) The composer wouldn’t have written these works specifically for Leopold, but the imperial court tastes permeated the Archbishopric of Salzburg, where Biber became deputy Kapellmeister at a relatively youthful age in 1679, and Kapellmeister a scant six years later. In addition, music-loving Leopold was to ennoble Biber in 1690 as Biber von Bibern. While it’s certainly true the pious and theologically inclined Leopold would have appreciated the composer’s mystery sonatas and masses, we can only hope he his moody disposition was at least momentarily lightened by fare like this, with its mixture of charm and dryly erudite wit. Gunar Letzbor has always been alive to the theatrical implications of the music he’s performed and recorded. That same sense permeates this disc, which is given a bit of a programmatic twist with a step-by-step, make-believe carnival feast for the Archbishop accompanied at each course or change of venue. (Of course, the clock striking midnight has to terminate the second and more lively of the two balletti , followed by a balletti lamentabili as the participants leave Carnival for the serious world. It’s not to be taken seriously, but it is fun.) Letzbor’s sudden shifts in instrumentation from full strings with recorders in the vigorous dance pieces, to organ accompaniment in the more solemn violin solo movements, emphasizes the tongue-in-cheek spirit of the album - though the Archbishop is unlikely to have countenanced such an orchestration in humor that would have been used for more religiously contemplative music. The strings of the Ars Antiqua Austria in this 1990s release are less wiry in tone, their attacks less ferocious, than in some more recent releases of theirs (Mouton’s 10 Concerti à 5 on Challenge Classics 72336, and Graupner’s Overture Suites on Challenge Classics 72539) without sacrificing any of their precision and phrasing. This is a very pleasing disc. If you’ve enjoyed any of the succession of releases of late featuring Schmelzer’s balletti and sonatas, you’ll definitely enjoy this.
Barry Brenesal



La Folia [November 2013.]

Gunar Letzbor’s early Biber

Walt Mundkowsky

As with Charles Rosen’s Goldbergs last month, I’m happy to welcome this Biber program (inessential but lots of fun) back into circulation. (The Swiss Pan Classics label has reissued some Symphonía titles.)

“Karneval in Kremsier.” Heinrich I.F. BIBER: Trombet- undt Musicalischer taffeldienst à 4 (1673); Arien à 4; Harmonia Romana; Balletti (incl. Ciacona from Serenada à 5, “Der Nachtwächter”); Arien à 4; Balletti; Balletti Lamentabili à 4 (1670) (rec. 10/1995). Ars Antiqua Austria, Gunar Letzbor (vln & dir.). Pan Classics PC 10300 (http:// Available from Nov. 25 via MDT (

Long ago I bought every recording of Biber’s Rosenkranz-Sonaten that appeared, to spur others into action. Now there are close to 20 and I have three – Eduard Melkus’ 1967 and Reinhard Goebel’s 1990 (both Archiv), and Maya Homburger’s 2007 (Maya). Biber is better established, but this invigorating CD of dance items from his twenties creates the soundtrack for a carnival of the era and can’t hurt. Individual movements are brief (50 zip past in 75:01), and incorporate dizzying contrasts of color, speed and texture. Starting with trumpet fanfares shockingly transferred onto the violin, this sequence features proud melodic contours, the full range of dance forms (from flowing Sarabandes to sprightly Gavottes and Gigues), and stamping peasant rhythms. I’d hate to be without violist / basso Michael Oman’s majestic turn as a tipsy night watchman (Goebel’s version plays it straight). At the stroke of midnight, the celebration shifts to the exhausted gloom of the six-part Balletti Lamentabili.

Ars Antiqua Austria clearly relishes and understands this intricate music – even early on it was core repertoire for them. Gunar Letzbor, their leader, spent time in Goebel’s MAK, and is equally attuned to Biber’s manic high spirits and solemn interludes. With delicious, lively sound, Karneval is a great (17th century) party album.

Letzbor’s investigation of the period continues with Biber’s Fidicinium Sacro-Profanum (1683), underrepresented in the catalog. It hits the US market on January 14 – Challenge Classics CC 72575. See W.A. Grieve-Smith’s Rosenkranz-Sonaten survey and Mike’s Biber review.



Toccata Nr.3/2005 Mai-Juni 2005

Ein deutschböhmischer Musikant, Österreichischer Komponist?
– Werke -1668--1674 (I)

H.I.F.BIBER Un Carnevale a Kremsier. Ars Antiqua Austria: Gunar Letzbor (1995; 75:01). Symphonia SY95143

Pssst!... Die Gespräche sind verstummt - wir befinden uns auf einem Faschingsfest am Hof des Fürstbischofs Karl von Liechtenstein-Castelcorno. Jetzt fängt die Musik an: Die Solovioline ahmt in der Intrada vom Trombet- undt musicalischer Taffeldienst sonor und markant die Signale einer Tromba nach. Ein herrlicher Abend, das Streicherensemble ist vorzüglich - aber wo ist der Heinrich Biber wieder? Sobald man ihn aus den Augen lässt, macht er sich aus dem Staub! Da, die Sonatina geht fließend über in eine Pizzicato-Gavotte ohne Violone, plötzlich kommt der Nachtwächter - ist das nicht...? - , macht die Runde im Saal und weist zweimal demonstrativ darauf hin, dass es nicht mehr neune ist, sondern der Hammer zehne geschlagen hat. Kaum ist er weg, folgen die Ari-en in A, dann die Harmonia Romana für je drei Violinen, Violen und Cembalo - das ist eine Suite in sieben Sätzen, die wohl eher von Vejvanovsky stammen könnte: voller Solo-/tutti-Kontraste mit einem virtuosen Part für die Solo-Violine im Passaggio, bei der sie nur von den beiden übri-gen Violinen begleitet wird. In den Balletti in D kommen beim Satz Aria. Die Werber zusätzlich Drehleier und Schlagwerk zum Einsatz, dann weist der Nachtwächter wieder mit auffällig rauher Stimme auf die fortgeschrittene Stunde hin: elf Uhr. Weiter geht's mit den Arien in h, in der die fast stampfend bzw. schwungvoll musizierte Aria 1 ma Barbaresca/Aria 2da zwischendurch immer wiederholt wird, auch spielen sie die Balletti in g. Die Interpretation der Suiten reicht von "amaresca" bis "barbaresca", von galant-anmutig bis rustikal-ausgelassen, gelegentlich verleiht eine zusätzliche Flauto dolce dem einen oder anderen Satz der Suiten eine liebliche Note. Der Primgeiger spielt zur Musik auf, ohne sich aufzuspielen und kann sich in sein Ensemble einpassen, das mit Charme, Spielfreude, drive tänzerisch-beschwingt bei der Sache ist... Bevor noch der letzte Satz zu Ende ist, tönt plötzlich die Turmuhr mit zwölf Schlägen herein, macht dem Treiben schlagartig eine Ende: Der Fasching ist schon vorbei? Mit den Balletti lamentabili, gespielt mit dem gemessenen Ernst und der feinen Tongebung eines englischen Violenconsorts geht ver-halten-tröstlich die Platte mit Tanzmusik zu Ende...